By Erika Wells
The High Meadows School community in Roswell makes sure each day is engaging, educational and anything but typical for students.
The school hopes to share its culture with others through its Center for Progressive Learning, a program that started this year.
The private school allows children to learn through active play and experience rather than rote memorization from a textbook.
Kate McElvaney, the center’s director of educational advancement, said educators strive to emotionally prepare students to learn inside and outside of the classroom. McElvaney said teachers foster development by trusting students and guiding their learning at the independent International Baccalaureate school.
“There can be joy and excitement in learning,” she said. “A lot of that is just recognizing that kids are powerful human beings who can make decisions along with facilitators.
“We’re not saying that High Meadows knows the best way to do everything; come and see what we’re doing and learn with us why this progressive model is what kids need. … What we do here is unique and wonderful but it’s not impossible to do in other places.”
Founded in 1973, High Meadows School, 1055 Willeo Road, serves 400 students in preschool through eighth grade. The environmentally friendly campus covers 40 acres with indoor and outdoor learning areas, gardens, a theater, animals and other recreational and educational space.
Students are encouraged to use their curiosity to explore; collaborate with peers and different age groups; and take responsibility for their education at any age.
“It’s important that our kids have a voice in the classroom so when they leave us that voice doesn’t get shut off,” McElvaney said. “They speak up and ask for what they need. They’re used to a certain culture where they’re not waiting to be told what to do, so they’re automatically more engaged.”
The school’s progressive program is based on the learning model by John Dewey, an early 20th-century American philosopher and advocate for education based on experience.
“What we offer is very different; the label for it is a progressive school,” McElvaney said. “That’s a label that particularly in the southeast is a little weighted for people; they think political. For us, it’s just good educational practice.”
Different subjects including math, science and technology as well as the arts and literacy are interconnected in practical lessons when possible. The school features small class sizes with assessments instead of focusing on teaching strictly for children to pass standardized tests.
“Part of school is not just to grow the mathematician or the reader or the writer but to grow the human and particularly to grow that human for democratic society,” McElvaney said. “We help them realize who they are as a learner.”
Students spend the day in different buildings based on grade level but all meet for lunch and meadow time, which is similar to recess.
“Progressive educators believe it all starts with relationships — hence the kids eating lunch in their classrooms as a family unit,” McElvaney said.
The center regularly hosts guest speakers and experts from around the world. Also, the center offers workshops for parents, teachers and the community to foster discussion on education.
For information, visit www.highmeadows.org.
Read more: Neighbor Newspapers – High Meadows program gives kids a voice in the classroom